Now, my family is no longer living in that small and busy merchant town anymore, except for Grandma Fumi. My father decided to move his family to a new house attached with an office in which he is going to start a new business. Fumi prefers to live in her own house that saved herself and her three children from World War II. Even though this house holds countless memories of various horrendous wartime incidents, she is proud of herself for surviving on her own. She rarely talks or whines about her honorary drafted husband who died somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Back then, she had no choice other than to be tough. Living in this house represents the feistiness and resilience that she refused to give up many times. Besides, regardless of her age, she still desired the maximum amount of comfort and support from her mother next door. Fumi has had special respect and trust with her mother in the traditional Japanese way.
Everything her parents say is right even if she disagrees. In fact, Fumi’s mother is the one who encouraged her arranged marriage. Fumi didn’t want to marry someone she didn’t know. Fumi and her mother sat on the Tatami mat, face to face, silently. Fumi’s mother started lecturing her, “This is the fifth visit in three months that his uncle came to ask us to marry you. You should feel honored to be wanted by this young man. You should not be stubborn anymore. It must be a good match.” Fumi gave in and married a young engineer who had an enthusiastic match-making uncle. At this point, no one expected this young engineer’s tragic ending and its ripple effect on his family. I hope that because she learned about him, Fumi at least loved her young husband. After all, she chooses to live in this house, perhaps, because she treasures the few memories of unforgettable and amazing times.
When I visit Fumi’s emotionally attached house, she routinely hands me one 10 cent coin to shop for something fun in the tiny general store. I can buy a prism shaped vanilla ice cream bar, the Homerun Bar, from the 10 sweaty cents inside of my fist. After I lick all the ice cream, I might see the lucky engraving, “Homerun” on the wood stick. This means I can get another bar for free. Although winning a free ice cream bar is very attractive, the 30 cent chocolate coated ice cream bar looks extravagant. Since I only receive 10 cents at a time, there is no way for me to purchase the extravaganza. Another interesting treat are the lottery strawberry candies. Each of the some fifty strawberry candies have a long sturdy kite string which is surprisingly untangled. If you are lucky enough to pick a winning string, you can receive a bigger candy than others. I look seriously at the complicated yet untangled strings in order to pick the best bet for the biggest candy in this Ami’s lottery. I usually aim for a large one. But that opportunity doesn’t come so often.
Though I should feel fortunate because there is no loser in this lottery, instead, I am interested in the 30 cent candy bars called Ghana. If I get Ghana, I don’t have to gamble. Ghana itself is a winning. Ghana is another luxury that I cannot possibly reach. Unfortunately, Grandma Fumi never taught me any wisdom as simple as saving money for just three days. In my little mind, ten cents must be used up all at one time, just like a church donation. A church wouldn’t accept, “Well, I won’t donate anything today, but trust me, I will donate double the amount next time.” They might not allow me to do any fun activities if I skip the donation, even if I promise God the double donation next time. Or maybe they would have let me. I assume they won’t so I don’t try to, in practicality, attempt this. The point is that Fumi expects me to learn things by myself, regardless of my age, maturity level, and lack of life experience. Her lessons are all developed from her survival. Do the best you can do. If you fail, try something else until it works out. I am too young to learn her extremely sophisticated, silent, and somewhat harsh messages.